An expanding service territory and many added rental services ensure a bright future for third-generation family company JOTS Rentals.
When Chris Stuckey graduated from college in 2011, he knew he had a good opportunity waiting for him in a family-owned business that was launched by his grandparents more than 40 years ago. He knew he had challenges awaiting him, as well.
W.L. and Ann Stuckey launched Longview Air Power, based in Longview, Texas, in 1975. The business initially rented portable industrial air compressors to local industries, contractors, and oil and gas operators. In 1983, the company was rebranded as AP Equipment & Rentals, adding a wider range of construction and industrial equipment to sell or rent to East Texas contractors and industries. In 1994, the family added Johnny On The Spot, a local portable restroom operation, to its growing business.
There have been a lot of changes in the Stuckey family business since it was first featured in PRO in 2005. A few years into the 21st century, the Stuckeys rebranded and reorganized the family business into three divisions including AP Rentals, JOTS Rentals and Air Power Sales & Service. Chris Stuckey, 29, who spent several years learning the ropes from a spot in the business office, was named general manager of JOTS Rentals in 2014. Since then, the division has added both territory and services under the young manager’s efforts.
Although W.L. Stuckey and his wife have retired, family members say that he still visits the office frequently, offering bits of wisdom and advice to his successors. Chris’s father, Donny Stuckey, is the president, overseeing general operations, while Donny’s sister, Annette Peterson, is vice president, overseeing the business office and finances. Chris’s mother, Julie Stuckey, works in the office as well as assisting Chris when needed. Annette’s husband, Craig Peterson, is also vice president of the company. Chris has a cousin joining him as a third-generation worker. Jeramie Peterson is general manger of the Air Power Sales & Service office serving Dallas/Fort Worth.
Chris says the family started out slowly in the portable restroom business with AP Rentals buying “a few toilets and a truck to service them.” But in 1994, the Stuckeys decided to buy Johnny On The Spot and get into the portable restroom service on a full scale. Today, Stuckey oversees 15 employees, about 1,500 restrooms and eight to 10 vacuum trucks in three East Texas markets.
In addition to expanding the territory, Stuckey has added two lines of rentals he believes go hand in hand with the core business. In 2014, JOTS added roll-off container rentals. And in February, Stuckey placed an order for two 20-foot storage units contractors can rent to secure equipment and supplies on the job site. Stuckey says that the storage units are being retrofitted so they can be lifted and transported by the same trucks used in the roll-off operation.
BREAKING NEW GROUND
Chris counts growth among his key responsibilities and he has blazed several productive paths to build revenue in his primary market, while tackling the opening of JOTS’ satellite location in the larger Tyler market.
The move into the larger, more competitive market was gradual at first. In response to several requests from Longview-area customers who needed restrooms at job sites around Tyler, Chris began by extending an existing Longview-based route. When there were enough accounts to justify the expense, an independent Tyler route was started. An office was opened in Flint, a small town just south of Tyler and the route assigned to employee Brett Myers, who had been receiving training in sales and operations.
“We had the right people to build the new business.” Stuckey says. When Myers quickly grew the client list in the Tyler market, JOTS hired a part-time person to help handle the workload. That position was quickly elevated to full time and a second part-timer was hired. “And now she’s full time,” Chris says. The office has grown and currently services 250 to 300 units in a crowded marketplace.
Chris believes the decision to expand JOTS into the market using its own resources rather than trying to acquire an existing operation was the right move.
“In a perfect world, you’d rather earn the business than buy it,” he says, explaining that new customers generated through hard work rather than obtained through an acquisition are more loyal. “We’re just trying to grow it with experience and service. If we have to go out and sell our service, it gives customers the opportunity to decide about whether we can meet their needs.”
By managing the size and range of the routes in the Longview market, JOTS has been able to expand into Tyler without having to significantly add to the payroll or truck fleet. The new office has also allowed AP Rentals to reach a new market for equipment rentals.
BUILDING THE BASE
Chris has not lost sight of the need to continue growing his core operation in Longview and another, smaller satellite operation in Mount Pleasant, about 50 miles to the north.
At the main office, Chris created a new sales position in 2016 primarily responsible for keeping track of commercial construction activity and marketing JOTS services to contractors. Longview has seen a surge of retail, commercial and institutional construction in the past few years and Chris says many operations utilize their own contractors who come from out of town.
“That’s when it is really good to have a salesperson to track the contractors down and talk to them before they come to town,” Stuckey says. “Before, we tried to all pitch in and do it ourselves, but now it is much more organized.”
The Longview location serves as the hub for all JOTS rental equipment. Since the needs of business accounts are easy to track and special events equipment requests usually come with lead time, Chris says the satellite locations can be “stocked according to their needs.” He says the distances between three operations are manageable, allowing JOTS to avoid duplication of equipment as well as service vehicles. “The good news is that it’s less than an hour door to door, so we can respond to the needs as they come up.”
One of Chris’ key challenges came last summer when he contracted to serve two major special events at the same time. “We had two big events — one in Longview and one in Tyler — and each needed 70 units.” The busy weekend passed without any insurmountable problems, indicating to Chris that the expansion in the two biggest East Texas markets is working out well.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
JOTS Rentals mainly uses PolyPortables Vantage and Satellite Industries Maxim 3000 restrooms. Chris also recently bought 12 PolyJohn Fleet Series flushable restrooms. PolyPortables furnished 24 handicap units. For special-event customers, JOTS Rentals also offers 15- and 18-foot Advanced Containment Systems Inc. restroom trailers. JOTS also has 75 Tag Along hand-wash stations from PolyPortables. To keep its restrooms fresh, the company buys liquid blue deodorizer from J&J Chemical.
As needs have dictated, JOTS has built a growing fleet including:
- Two 2007 Kenworth T-300 with 1,100-gallon waste/400-gallon freshwater stainless steel tanks and Masport pumps from Best Enterprises
- 2010 International 4300 with 1,100-gallon waste/400-gallon freshwater steel tanks and Masport pumps from Keith Huber
- 2006 Chevrolet 3500 with 600-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater steel tanks and Masport pumps on a slide-in unit from Best Enterprises
- 2013 International 4300 with 850-gallon waste/350-gallon freshwater steel tanks and Masport pumps from Keith Huber
- 2013 Dodge Ram 3500 with 400-gallon waste/200-gallon freshwater stainless steel tanks and Honda pumps from Keith Huber
- 2015 Ford F-550 with 600-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater steel tanks and a Masport pumps from Ledwell & Son
- 2017 Ford F-550 flatbed with 600-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater stainless steel tanks and Honda pumps on a slide-in unit from Best Enterprises.
Early this year, Stuckey expanded the fleet with another 2017 Ford F-550 flatbed outfitted with a flat tank from Crescent Tank Mfg. The design of the steel tank — 750 gallons wastewater/350 gallons freshwater — allows the JOTS’ drivers to carry restrooms on the truck rather than pulling a trailer. The new truck is equipped with a Masport pump.
JOTS got into the roll-off container business when friends of the Stuckey family asked if they could store an idle container on the open lot adjacent to the AP Rentals building where the Stuckeys’ businesses are headquartered. The Stuckeys soon found a number of customers asking about renting restrooms and containers together. When the friends decided to sell their container business, Chris was happy to add the containers to his offerings. He said it was clear that the two operations had many things in common, particularly their customer bases.
When JOTS bought the business it had one truck and 21 roll-off bins. In a little more than two years, that has grown to four trucks and 115 bins with 20-, 30- and 40-cubic-yard capacities. They purchase containers from Louisiana Container, Custom Manufacturing and PCI Manufacturing. There are four dedicated drivers for this division, with sales, accounting and billing work handled by existing JOTS staff.
Chris has grown the family business by expanding territory, broadening services and stepping up sales efforts in his core market, making sure that JOTS gets a shot at the opportunities that come with a growing number of out-of-town contractors who come to Longview to build the restaurants, shopping centers and apartments.
His family has been impressed with his results, but Chris is not ready to rest on his achievements. “I expect more growth in the future,” he says. “I feel like we do a good job of identifying opportunities and capitalizing on them. Who knows exactly what the future holds, but we will be ready when the picture becomes more clear.”
Disability doesn’t slow Stuckey
Chris Stuckey was 8 years old in July of 1996 when he was riding a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle across the backyard of his family home while pulling some branches that had been trimmed. Something upended the ATV and it flipped, pinning Chris underneath it. Injuries left him a quadriplegic, without the functional use of his arms or legs.
No matter what happened to Chris on that day, he says he would have probably wound up on the same career track he is following today at one branch of the family business, JOTS Rentals. But Chris says he came to the business better educated and more mature than most people his age, thanks to overcoming the injuries he survived as a child.
Because of his quadriplegia and the need for support, Chris stayed close to home for college, attending LeTourneau University in Longview. Chris says the combination of his medical condition, living at home and the school’s high standards for education and student conduct combined to make him a more serious student. At an age when many young people were having a good time at school, Chris says he was focused on his education.
As the accounting major says, “I would have ended up in the same place, but I might not have been as prepared as I was for this responsibility.”
The job as general manager was not simply handed over to Chris when he graduated in 2011. Instead, he was put under his aunt Annette Peterson’s wing for a few years in the business office. He said that if he was not confined to a wheelchair he probably would have started further down the line at the family business, quite possibly cleaning, delivering and servicing the portable toilets that are the core of the operation at JOTS Rentals.
Chris says his father, Donny Stuckey, “Has never been one to go easy on me. He wouldn’t have given me this job until I showed I could do any of the jobs.” Even though Chris could not follow the regular route up the organizational chart, he eagerly attacked the tasks he was asked to do.
“He’s never let his disability hold him back from anything he’s needed to do,” says Donny. “He’s very focused for a person his age. He always has been.”
Chris was first charged with learning how to keep the books for the company’s three divisions.
The assignment also gave Chris the chance to learn quickly about all of the company’s day-to-day operations, the challenges and the opportunities. “I was just tasked with learning how everything works. That’s how he put me through the training process,” Chris recalls.
Chris didn’t want to take his opportunities for granted. He came to the job with the intention of showing he could help the family business not only continue to thrive, but also to grow. That was just the kind of attitude Donny wanted to find in his son. “He’s done very well,” Donny says. “I want him eventually to do my job.”